Foreign donors including Denmark have suspended all aid to the Uganda government until that country conducts a full investigation and repays 75 million kroner in unaccounted for funds.
Denmark joined Ireland and the UK in cutting off aid following the allegations that the officials working for the Ugandan prime minister had illegally siphoned off money into personal bank accounts.
“We have suspended, effective immediately, all aid payments to Uganda’s government,” the development minister, Christian Friis Bach (Radikale), said. “This has happened after tough negotiations with the country’s prime minister and finance minister in which we have demanded that the case is fully investigated.”
He added: “At the meetings we have held, promises have been made that a full investigation would be carried out, that the money would be repaid in full, that those responsible would be held accountable and that control systems would be introduced that ensure fraud like this won’t happen again.”
According to the Ugandan state auditor that exposed the fraud, half of the combined 155 million kroner that Denmark, Norway, Ireland and the UK gave to the Ugandan government was illegally transferred to the personal bank accounts of government officials – Denmark contributed 10 million kroner of the total.
The stolen aid was given for development efforts in the war-torn and poor region in northern Uganda, home of the notorious warlord Joseph Kony, who enlisted thousands of children to fight for his rebel army.
Ugandan MPs have strongly condemned the fraud and have demanded that the permanent secretary of the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM), Pius Bigirimana, should fired and charged.
According to the Ugandan daily New Vision action has already been taken after the PMO’s principal accountant, Godfrey Kazinda (left), was arrested and questioned after the state auditor accused him of signing off 35 million kroner of fraudulent money transfers.
The final report by the state auditor into the aid scandal detailed how the money was systematically stolen from the fund for northern Uganda and demonstrated to the development minister how strong Uganda’s institutions were becoming.
”Denmark has supported the development of the state accountant that has appeared stronger than ever,” Bach said. “The case clearly demonstrates that building up transparent systems takes time but it is the way forward for preventing fraud and ensuring that Danish aid money is used as effectively as possible in the poorest developing nations.”
After meetings with the international donors, Ugandan PM Amama Mbabazi expressed his regret over the scandal.
“As a country and Government, we are sorry it happened. It was obviously a criminal act. The theft was massive,” Mbabazi told New Vision.“ Ugandans are as angry as the citizens of the development partners.”
Felix Okot Ogong, the head of the North Parliamentary Forum, which is based in the region where the stolen money was intended, has called for the officials to be punished, but urged international donors not to withdraw their aid.
“The north has suffered for a long time from war and it needs to catch up with the pace of development of other parts of the country,” Ogong said according to New Vision.
Bach has only suspended aid given directly to the Ugandan government. Private organisations and charities operating in Uganda can still expect their funding.